GAINESVILLE, Fla. --- University of Florida and University of Texas at Austin scientists have shed light on what Charles Darwin called the abominable mystery of early plant evolution.
In two papers set to be published next week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the scientists report that the two largest groups of flowering plants are more closely related to each other than any of the other major lineages. These are the monocots, which include grasses and their relatives, and the eudicots, which include sunflowers and tomatoes.
Doug and Pam Soltis, a UF professor of botany and curator at UFs Florida Museum of Natural History, respectively, also showed that a stunning diversification of flowering plants they are referring to as the Big Bang took place in the comparatively short period of less than 5 million years -- and resulted in all five major lineages of flowering plants that exist today.
Flowering plants today comprise around 400,000 species, said Pam Soltis. So to think that the burst that give rise to almost all of these plants occurred in less than 5 million years is pretty amazing -- especially when you consider that flowering plants as a group have been around for at least 130 million years.
The lead author of the UF paper is Michael Moore, a former postdoctoral associate in the Soltis lab and current faculty member at Oberlin College. Charles Bell, the fourth author, is another former Soltis postdoctoral associate, now at the University of New Orleans.
Robert Jansen, professor of integrative biology at The University of Texas at Austin, said the two papers set the stage for all future comparative studies of flowering plants.
If you are interested in understanding the evolution of flowering plants, you cant do that unless you understand their relationships, he said.
Botanists predating Darwin have long recognized that flowering plants, which comprise at least 60 percen
|Contact: Pam Soltis|
University of Florida